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Maricopa County will conduct another audit of its voting systems in an attempt to satisfy those with concerns about the integrity of the 2020 general election.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to hire two independent companies to conduct an audit that will examine again whether the machines counted votes properly, whether they were hacked or tampered with, and whether the county used proper procedures when leasing its machines from Dominion Voting Systems.

© David Wallace/The Republic Maricopa County Elections employee Charles Cooley places ballots in a box after they had been tabulated by the machines, at the Maricopa County Elections headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., on November 6, 2020.

The supervisors said before the vote that they have full confidence the election ran smoothly and votes were counted accurately, after multiple audits and hand counts came back without errors and after election challenges were dismissed by the courts.

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Chairman Jack Sellers said the audit is meant to alleviate the concerns of those who still “have serious doubts about our election process.”

© Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Jack Sellers represents District 1 on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

“I really want to alleviate their concerns and their issues with whatever it is we are doing and convince them that this was in fact truly an honest election with good integrity,” he said.

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It’s unclear whether the audit will satisfy the demands of the Arizona Senate, which issued subpoenas to the supervisors in December demanding the board turn over a myriad of election material, including images of all mail-in ballots, detailed voter information and machines used to count votes, so the Senate could conduct the audit.

Senate President Karen Fann did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday asking whether the county’s audit satisfies the subpoenas. She had announced last week that the Senate and the supervisors had reached an agreement, but the supervisors said at the time that nothing was final.

If approved, the county’s audit would come far too late to overturn the results of November’s general election, considering the board certified the results in November and President Joe Biden already has taken office.

Audit may cost between $50K and $100K

The audits of machines and software may cost between $50,000 and $100,000, according to county spokesperson Fields Moseley based on county estimates. The county’s contracts with the audit companies are not yet final.

If approved, the audit would take place in February and March, according to a county document.

Sellers told The Republic on Tuesday that the supervisors feel “the amount of money that it is going to take to do this is worth it to try to calm people down and make people understand that the election is fair and honest and their votes do count and if there is anything wrong we want to be the first to know that.”

The two companies the county will use for the audit declined to provide an estimate of their services to The Republic.

Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the board, said while he was supporting the audit in order to prove one more time that the election was fair and accurate, it was a tough pill for him to swallow.

He said this will not change anything for the people who continue to mistrust the system and spread conspiracy theories, even after all that has been done to prove its accuracy. 

“We are never going to convince them,” Gallardo said.

What the county’s new audit will examine

© David Wallace/The Republic Scott Jarrett (right), Maricopa County elections director of Election Day and emergency voting, talks to Kelli Ward (second from right), chair of the Arizona Republican Party, and other observers during a postelection logic and accuracy test with the tabulation machines at the Maricopa County elections tabulation center in Phoenix on Nov. 18, 2020.

Scott Jarrett, director of election day and emergency voting for the Maricopa County Elections Department, told the supervisors on Wednesday that the new audit is another step to prove the election integrity, to prove the voting system is reliable, and to prove that residents can rely on the equipment moving forward.

“We know there is a lot of misinformation out there about this election,” Jarrett said. “I am confident that those rumors aren’t true. But there are a good number of people in our community who do have mistrust.”

One of the key aspects of the audit is that it will not be performed by the county but by two companies that are certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to conduct audits of voting systems. Those companies, according to a commission spokesperson, are Pro V&V and SLI Compliance.

The independence of the companies is key to performing a strong audit and restoring trust, Jarrett and the supervisors said.

“It was very important to us that we have totally independent qualified people do the audits for us,” Sellers told The Republic on Tuesday. “It really is an interest on our part to be as transparent and open as we can be with this whole process and satisfy every one of the concerns that has been addressed to us as best we can.”

The proposed audit would do the following to ensure that the county’s voting system worked properly in the general election, Jarrett told the supervisors on Wednesday:

  • Analyze its hacking vulnerability.
  • Verify that no malicious malware was installed.
  • Test that tabulators were not sending or receiving information over the internet.
  • Confirm that no vote switching occurred.
  • Verify state and county procurement regulations were followed when leasing the equipment from Dominion Voting Systems. 

Part of the scope would be conducting another logic and accuracy test to verify that the county’s machines are counting votes correctly. That test will not use 2020 ballots, though, since under state law those must remain locked up for a period of time after the election.

The logic and accuracy test will ensure there was no “vote switching,” Jarrett said.

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County already has performed audits

Jarrett outlined the steps the county has already taken since starting to use the new Dominion Voting Systems machines to ensure that the machines worked properly and votes were counted accurately in the general election.

That includes a 100% hand count of a previous election, the Madison School District Election, four separate hand counts and independent logic and accuracy tests for the general election. The hand counts are performed by the political parties themselves, not by county election officials, Jarrett explained.

“We have done many tests. We have done audits. We have done hand counts,” Jarrett said.

The supervisors and Jarrett also talked about the number of public meetings they had before and after the election to ensure the election ran smoothly and to explain how votes were counted accurately and that there was no illegal tampering.

After the election, county officials went before members of the Arizona Legislature in a multiple-hour hearing to answer questions about the integrity of the election, and the supervisors asked staff questions for hours before certifying the results.

Supervisor Bill Gates said the reality is, people haven’t been paying attention.

What happens with the subpoenas from the Senate?

Sellers told The Republic on Tuesday that the supervisors are attempting to address every concern about the election using the new audit.

“Whether or not that will satisfy everyone in the Senate, I don’t know,” Sellers said. “But we really are anxious for this to be the end of this discussion and move forward with regular business of Maricopa County.”

While much of the supervisors’ plan is in line with the Senate’s demands, there are a few major distinctions. 

First, the county would not be handing over its election machines or materials to the Senate. This is something that the supervisors have argued could compromise voter information. 

The county’s audit also will not study 2020 ballots, while the Senate had demanded copies of all mail-in ballots.

The audit would also not be performed by the Senate, but rather by the two private companies certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Allowing people who aren’t qualified to use the machines to tamper with them could affect the integrity of the machines just before the county must use them in jurisdictional elections this winter and spring, Sellers said.

That said, Gates told The Republic on Tuesday that the supervisors were going to invite lawmakers to oversee the process and ask them for their input. He said the supervisors understand that part of the Senate’s interest is to monitor the audit in order to see which changes are needed to election law.

Gallardo said that, as a former member of the state House of Representatives, he sponsored several election-related bills and never needed to dismantle voting systems or to do his own audit to “do what is right for the people of Arizona to make sure our elections are clear and free.”

Reach the reporter at jen.fifield@azcentral.com or at 602-444-8763. Follow her on Twitter @JenAFifield

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Maricopa County supervisors approve another election audit to be ‘transparent and open’ about the vote count

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